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Ricketts, Charles (1866-1931), and Charles Shannon (1863-1937)  
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Wilde delighted in the company of the young artists, calling The Vale "the one house in London where you will never be bored." Ricketts and Shannon's circle also included writers Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley (who wrote together as Michael Field), W.B. Yeats, John Gray, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Sturge Moore, and Cecil Lewis.

In 1896 Ricketts and Shannon founded the Vale Press. Their aim to was to have complete control over the production of all aspects of the book--including typeface, illustration, and even binding.

In addition to their illustrations of Wilde's works, they had also illustrated and decorated two other books, Daphnis and Chloe by Longus (1893) and Hero and Leander by Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman (1894), published by the firm of Mathews and Lane. The first Vale Press book, The Early Poems of John Milton, was published in 1896.

Ricketts created three type fonts--the Vale, the Avon, and the King's--for the Vale Press books and also designed elaborate initial letters and intricate decorative borders in an Art Nouveau style.

In 1899 a fire at the Ballantyne Press, where the books were made, resulted in the loss of many of the woodcuts for the decorations. Ricketts and Shannon persevered, completing a 37-volume edition of Shakespeare then in progress, but closed the Vale Press in 1904.

At this point Ricketts began to work at oil-painting, a medium in which Shannon already excelled, specializing in formal portraits, and biblical and classical scenes. Ricketts did not enjoy equal success and, although he continued to do some painting, turned his attention to other artistic pursuits--sculpture, lithography, and jewelry- and stage-design.

He became especially well known for his stage work. Between 1906 and 1931 he was involved in over fifty productions, designing costumes and sets, and sometimes even making properties and lighting the stage.

In addition to their own creative pursuits, Ricketts and Shannon were avid collectors of art. Although their income was always modest, they were able to acquire a diverse collection that included Japanese prints, Greek and Egyptian antiquities, and drawings by such masters as Rembrandt and Rubens. Ricketts was especially canny at recognizing undervalued works. He used this ability to advantage as an advisor to the National Gallery of Canada.

Although they spent their entire adult lives together, Ricketts and Shannon never publicly identified themselves as a homosexual couple. Commentators believe that Ricketts was certainly a homosexual, but Shannon seems at least occasionally to have been attracted to women. His relationship with Kathleen Bruce, of whom he painted several portraits, caused considerable anxiety to Ricketts, who recorded in his diary his fear that Shannon might marry.

In January 1929 Shannon fell while hanging a picture. He never completely recovered his health or senses and remained an invalid until his death in 1937. Ricketts died of heart failure in 1931.

Although some of their remarkable collection of art was sold to provide for Shannon in his final years, many of the Asian pieces now belong to the British Museum, and most of the others are in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Overview:  Symbolists

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arts >> Beardsley, Aubrey

English decadent and Symbolist artist Aubrey Beardsley made a lasting contribution to the art of illustration; a satirist with a gift for caricature and grotesquerie, Beardsley attacked Victorian sexual values.

literature >> Field, Michael [Katherine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913)]

Lesbian lovers Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper, writing as Michael Field, collaborated on a number of plays and eight volumes of verse, many of which had lesbian contents.

literature >> Milton, John

While Milton accepted the biblical condemnation of sodomy, some of his works suggest that his attitude toward same-sex relations was enlightened for his age.

arts >> Raffalovich, Marc André

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literature >> Shakespeare, William

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arts >> Wheeler, Monroe

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Binnie, Eric. The Theatrical Designs of Charles Ricketts. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1979.

Calloway, Stephen. Charles Ricketts: Subtle and Fantastic Designer. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.

Cooper, Emmanuel. "Ricketts, Charles (de Sousy)." The Dictionary of Art. Jane Turner, ed. New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 1996. 26:360.

_____. "Shannon, Charles (Hazelwood)." The Dictionary of Art. Jane Turner, ed. New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 1996. 28:555.

Corbett, David Peters. "'Collaborative Resistance: Charles Ricketts as Illustrator of Oscar Wilde." Word & Image 10.1 (January-March 1994): 22-37.

Darracott, Joseph. The World of Charles Ricketts. London: Eyre Methuen, 1980.

Delaney, J. G. P. Charles Ricketts: A Biography. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

Delaney, Paul. "Charles Shannon: Master of Lithography." Connoisseur 200 (March 1979): 200-205.

Denney, Colleen. "English Book Designers and the Role of the Modern Book at L'Art Nouveau; Part Two: Relations between England and the Continent." Arts Magazine 6.10 (June 1987): 49-57.

Fitzwilliam Museum. All for Art: The Ricketts and Shannon Collection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Johnson, Diana L. Fantastic Illustration and Design in Britain, 1850-1930. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1979.

Ricketts, Charles. Oscar Wilde: Recollections. Bloomsbury: Nonesuch Press, 1932.

_____. Self-Portrait: Taken from the Letters & Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A. Cecil Lewis, ed. London: Peter Davies, 1939.

Taylor, John Russell. The Art Nouveau Book in Britain. London: Methuen, 1966.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Ricketts, Charles , and Charles Shannon  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 25, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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